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Background Checks – Connecticut’s Criminal Conviction Records Now Available Online and Free

Posted in Human Resources (HR) Compliance

Without much fanfare, the Connecticut Judicial Branch is now posting criminal conviction records with free access to the public. You can view these records at this link here.  It is easy to search and easy to use.

The possibilities in the employment context are deep and wide as employers may now seek to review this database for hiring purposes or even to look up existing employees.  For example, the prior convictions of Joshua Komisarjevsky, one of the suspects accused in the murder of various Petit family members, are all up there.  You can see and trace that history fairly easily.   

First, a bit more about the details (from A Public Defender):

As promised by Representative Mike Lawlor months ago, the criminal disposition database is now online. You can search by last name and birth year, courthouse, docket number. This covers criminal and motor vehicle cases.

…It gives you his name, his lawyer’s name, his lawyer’s juris number (state bar number), his year of birth, his arrest date, the arresting agency, the sentencing date, and then a lot of information about the offenses of conviction, including the sentence, what he pled to initially, the date of the offense, the date of the verdict.

For state employers, the ease of this access can be a tease, particularly given the state’s law prohibiting the use of some criminal conviction information for purposes of making employment decisions.  Connecticut’s public policy is to encourage employers to hire qualified ex-offenders.  (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 46a-79.) Law enforcement agencies (which include Sheriff’s Department court house security and transportation personnel) are the only governmental entities in the state that by law can deny employment based solely on a person’s criminal history.  In all other cases, state officials cannot deny felons employment, occupational licenses, or permission to engage in state-regulated professions without examining (1) the relationship between the crime committed and the job or license that the person is being considered for, (2) the convicted person’s degree of rehabilitation, and (3) the time elapsed since conviction or release.

For private employers, there are no such restrictions on the use of conviction records for purposes of making employment decisions.  The only relevant restrictions for employers prohibit the use of erased criminal records (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-51i).  Indeed, subsection (f) reminds employers that while there is no restriction on the use of criminal records, such information must be restricted to those with a "need to know" within the company — normally the human resources personnel or the person making the decision to hire the applicant.

That said, the use of an outside service to conduct the background checks may still run into issues with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as I outlined in a prior post.   

While the criminal defense attorney bar may lament an "invasion of privacy", this information has always been available to the public — just not as easily as before.   It is a very useful resource to have — whether for employers or in the civil litigation context.  Kudos the judicial branch for putting forth a database that is a useful resource for the public.

  • http://apublicdefender.com Gideon

    I wrote a really long comment and then it would go through for some reason. So, the gist of it is this:
    Information always available – yet no freely disseminated with such ease for the layperson. You complain of civil litigation and employers, yet no chore for them to obtain pre-database.
    Only person for whom easier now is layman. Why does he deserve such unfettered access to sensitive info without providing reason for such need?

  • http://www.ctemploymentlawblog.com Dan Schwartz

    So, let me get this straight — we already give ready access to CIVIL court dockets where people sue and get sued and where allegations are thrown around fairly freely, but for CONVICTIONS OF A CRIME, or where someone has plead guilty, we should keep that information for all intents and purposes “hidden”?
    And how is being convicted of a crime “sensitive info”?
    Historically, we have always viewed those who are convicted of a crime as different from the rest of society. That’s because (and I realize there are exceptions) they broke the law. And whether its an employer, or a next-door neighbor, we do a disservice to everyone by treating that information as a secret.
    I say put it out in the open and let others decide how they want to use that information.